Trent Gillaspie, creator of the Judgmental Denver map: "I tried not to leave anyone out"
After staring at the Judgmental Denver map for a good twenty minutes late last Thursday night, I decided to write some thoughts on the neighborhood(s) I call home, and salute the map's then-unknown creator -- who then contacted me. And a few days ago, I called Trent Gillaspie, a technology and product manager who claims almost-native status, and asked why in the hell he made this map.
- Judgmental Denver map: choose your own gentrification adventure!
- O, Barnum! An ode to Denver's least desirable neighborhood
- Race and ethnicity map shows increasing gentrification of northwest Denver
Westword: What was the impetus for the creation of the Judgmental Denver map?
Enrique Parrilla The man behind the map: Trent Gillaspie
Trent Gillaspie: I think it's funny because I've lived here for a number of years -- since '93 -- and when I told people where we lived in Denver, I couldn't really explain it. In the article, you mentioned that we might live in the "cool kids" area, which I thought was hilarious, because we live in "Taco Cart Headquarters."
The way I've explained it is, like, we're at Fifth and Federal. And then (the response would be), "Oh, so like Sloan's Lake." And I'd say, yeah, yeah... but we're not at all Sloan's Lake. But I came to start generalizing a lot of Denver with stereotypes. I've lived in a few different areas around Denver, and I've explained neighborhoods to people with stereotypes.
So I thought, why not just have a map for it that sort of pokes fun and uses a little humor? Something that puts a little of it out on the line in being blunt with stereotypes, too. I tried not to leave anyone out. I didn't want it to be unfair.
So you're not native, but you've been here since '93?
Yes. I grew up in Littleton, went to Littleton High School. Then I left for college and came back. It's Denver. How can you leave Denver? I went to college in New York; New York is cold. People think Denver's cold and it's like, come on. My wife has been here her entire life; she's raring to at least live somewhere else before we get too old.
With ski traffic in the news, I was hearing from everyone how hard of a time they had getting up to the mountains because of all the people crowding the freeway. We should just keep telling people that Denver sucks -- the weather's awful, year-round. (Laughs.) It's miserable, it's so Republican; stop moving here. Just stay away. There are guns and cowboys everywhere.
What is your day job? What do you do, I mean, besides making maps?
It's extremely unrelated: I do product management and technology. So I'm a product nerd. By all means, I'm not a cartographer in my day job. I wish that were the case, though I don't know if that role even exists anymore. (Laughs.)
You've got a blog where other people can submit their cities and their stereotypes of neighborhoods. Have you had responses?
Yes. I think I'll see more response as it goes on. This caught on a lot quicker and stronger than I thought it was going to. I reached out to a few comedians in other cities -- I know some who used to live in Denver and some from when I toured as a comedian. I said, "Hey, would you create something like this for your city?"
We've had a good response, and I have some that are going to be submitted soon. Outside of that, I'm hoping that once people see that it's not just one guy doing these, other people will submit too. I'd like to get that community growing.
So you're a comedian?
I previously did (stand-up) for about three years in Denver. I've taken a little bit of a break. I am looking to get back into it now, but work was just busy. Plus, I didn't find the voice that I was looking for on stage.
But the comedy scene and community in Denver is amazing. And the people who have left Denver to do other things stay close in touch with Denver -- which helped me when I was reaching out to other cities.
How did you release the map, initially?
I think more thought went into how to release the map than the map itself. (Laughs.) In this day and age, it is hard to trace -- actually, it ended up being a lot harder to trace than I thought. I put it on tumblr first, with the idea that there would be other maps to come from the blog first. So I uploaded it there and then linked to it on my comedian Facebook page. Then I shared it on my profile page.
Then the image started being taken from the post: We have Google Analytics on the blog itself, so we could see when anyone hit the site. But we couldn't tell who saw the image -- implied impressions are a completely different number than actual analytics. Since I couldn't see who all shared it on Facebook, I had friends telling me where they were seeing it shared. Someone saw it had 3,000 shares and I was like, whoa. I don't know this person, but they have 3,000 shares out of their post, and I had twenty on mine.
It was a weird set of analytics. I think it would have worked better if I had put an image right on my Facebook page and put a link in the caption. O, put the blog name in the image. I had a couple of friends help me with the areas on the map that I didn't know and initially, the idea was just like, let's just put it out there.
Initially I thought, if this blows up in my face, I want to be able to disassociate myself with it. Now, looking back, I really should have put my name or the name of the blog on the image.